At the beginning of each course, I try to bring some perspective to the students through a variety of methods.  For instance, in US History, they take the citizenship test and come to terms with how little they have retained about basic American civics and history.  It creates need, awareness of what is not in their wheelhouse of knowledge.  When I started teaching Globalization, I decided to employ an activity that I used in middle school geography class, The World of 100.

This activity asks students to imagine the world is 100 people and then guess what portions would fit into different demographic categories – gender, age, literacy, etc.  Here are the steps in the activity as I most recently used it:

    • Hand out the World of 100 Worksheet
    • Students do their best to accurately fill in the demographic information
    • After they have their answers, students then report their answers into a google form
    • While the google form is getting populated with data, students begin graphing 4-5 of their demographic categories.  I used googledocs for this part and it is really quite straightforward to make graphs and charts.
    • After students graphed their individual data, they then pulled (from the mass data spreadsheet for all students) the averages of the same demographic categories that they originally graphed.  The goal was to then graph this set of data as well.  It is important to realize that these graphs will need to be bar charts as opposed to pie charts due to the fact that the class data is averaged.
    • The final step is to then pull the correct data and mesh that next to the individual and class data.
    • Once all the graphs have been created the students go through an analysis of the information.  Which categories were you most accurate? inaccurate? Explain why you think that was the case.  Which of the real/correct answers shocked you the most? Explain.  If you were way off course in your predictions, explain why it is that you feel that happened. If you were spot on, explain why you think that happened.

****** Use data to support your answers when appropriate*****

The end products find students looking at their vision of the world, next to reality.  They start to grapple with why their world view is so skewed.  It grounds them in a place of understanding about what they don’t know in the most organic of ways.  Here are some of their reflections:

Matt Reflects:  I over estimated the percentage of people that actually speak English. I figured that Spanish would be second most because of Mexico and South America and Spain, but I forgot how much China’s population made up the world. The only reason why I thought that English was most spoken is because of where I live and what I am used to. America is one of the most inviting countries and so I figured that at least 30% of the world would speak English, but really only 5% speak English. America doesn’t seem like 5% of the world along with some of Europe.

Emma writes: I understood that a lot of the world is impoverished, but didn’t realize until the answers came back what it means to be privileged in certain countries versus others. Given these views, I was really surprised at how far away I was from guessing the poverty in the world.  When tallying the amount of people per category, I realized that I just don’t know much about the living environments, income, death rates, form of government, etc of those in the surrounding countries.

Natalie offers: My prediction on the distribution of people in the continents of the world was also inaccurate. My predictions were pretty similar to what my classmates thought in most cases for this category. In reality, there are a lot more people in Asia than there are in all of the other continents.

Donna writes: I think that I was way off on all of them because honestly, I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure about certain things like, if everyone was going be living in one country, if we were all spread out around the world, how much different would the world be from it is now, etc. It was kind of confusing. I wasn’t spot on for any of them. It was kind of disappointing, but it was fun to learn some new and interesting facts from this assignment.

This activity allows the course to start with more questions than answers and a connection to their own sense of the world, that may or may not be grounded in reality.  This is a wonderful place to jump off from into learning.